8 Tips and Hacks for Getting the Most Protection From Your Sunscreen

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iStock

We all know we should wear sunscreen every day no matter what, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, hot, or cold. But more than 50 percent of Americans never apply sunscreen, perhaps because it takes time and can cause messy hands, smelly bodies, and acne breakouts. Since protecting our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays can prevent skin cancer, wrinkles, and liver spots, read on for ideas to make wearing sunscreen a breeze.

1. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS.

Some sunscreen manufacturers engage in deceptive marketing tactics that can confuse customers. If you’re using a subpar sunscreen, you can't be confident in your choice of skin protection. Choose a mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen (containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) with an SPF between 30 and 50. Check the date to make sure your sunscreen hasn’t expired, and apply it to your skin 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside for maximum effect. Sunscreen companies use different scents and amounts of oil, so experiment to find a smell and texture you like.

2. WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING.

Don't rely on your sunscreen (and your willingness to reapply it properly) alone for protection. Invest in sun-protective clothing, made with fabric that blocks UVA and UVB rays, or wear regular long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, and full coverage hats when you’ll be in the sun for long periods of time. Pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson told Today that she supports wearing sun-safe clothing as a way to reduce the amount of skin that needs sunscreen—for both you and your kids. “Then, in areas of their body you can't cover with UV protective clothing, that's when we think, yeah, we want you to use sunscreen and use it judiciously,” she said.

3. KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN.

Many people’s sunscreen aversion stems from the fact that applying the lotion leaves your hands feeling gross and oily. Instead, consider applying with a cotton ball or cotton pad. Squirt sunscreen on a cotton pad, spread it over your face and body, and then dispose of the cotton pad. Or try a roll-on, powder, or spray sunscreen, which can also help keep your hands clean. If you use spray sunscreen, remember to close your eyes and hold your breath while applying it so you don’t inhale harmful chemicals.

4. LINK IT TO ANOTHER MORNING HABIT.

If your current morning routine doesn’t involve sunscreen, you can change that without too much effort. Immediately after you complete a task you do every morning—brushing your teeth, making coffee, or taking a shower—apply sunscreen. This will make it easier to remember to do so.

To cut down on steps, consider using a cleanser or moisturizer with SPF protection. Just make sure that the products you use have ample SPF, and bring a regular sunscreen with you so you can reapply during the day.

5. COVER YOUR EYES AND LIPS.

Don't forget to shield your eyes and lips from the sun. Get in the habit of wearing sunglasses whenever you go outside, and make sure your shades have broad-spectrum sun protection. Wearing the right sunglasses will help lower your risk of getting skin cancer on your eyelids or melanoma on the retinas in the back of your eyes.

And your lips may look different than the rest of your face, but they’re skin, too. Wear a lip balm with ample SPF protection every day. Dermatologist Marla Klein, who treats patients at Klein Dermatology & Associates in Oregon, tells Mental Floss that she often sees patients who have protected their faces with sunscreen but not their lips. “Many people have chronically chapped lips, which is how actinic cheilitis presents in the clinic," she says.

6. STEP INTO A SNAPPYSCREEN BOOTH.

SnappyScreen is an automated booth that covers you in sunscreen in just 10 seconds. Currently available at a handful of resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean, SnappyScreen may head to public pools, water parks, and beaches in the future.

7. VISUALIZE WRINKLES AND SCARS.

If the health benefits of wearing sunscreen aren’t sufficient motivation for you to wear sunscreen daily, think about your future appearance. Visualize your face with sun spots, wrinkles, and melanoma scars to deter you from inaction. “UVA rays change the elasticity of your skin … [without sunscreen,] you’re going to get more wrinkly and you’re going to look older, faster,” Swanson says to parents who want to motivate their teenagers to wear sunscreen.

8. BE STRATEGIC ABOUT TIMING.

Depending on where you live, UV rays are stronger at certain times, usually between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If possible, spend less time outdoors (in direct sunlight) during those peak hours. Check UV Index maps and forecasts for your area to plan your outside time for when it's safest.

This piece originally ran in 2016.

12 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Decorations Under $25

Amazon/shopDisney
Amazon/shopDisney

Halloween is right around the corner—which means it’s officially time to bring out the jack-o'-lanterns, watch scary movies, buy your costume(s), and hang up your festive decorations. Although there are thousands of decorations to choose from, you don’t have to blow your budget while decking out your house or apartment in honor of the spooky season this year. With a little guidance, you'll find plenty of ways to create the perfect ambiance at home without going for broke. (And best of all, you can put the money you saved toward extra Halloween candy to stash away.)

From giant spiders to hanging ghosts and lawn decorations, here are a few of our favorite props under $25.

1. Halloween Pillow Covers (4-Pack); $17

ZJHAI/Amazon

These adorable Halloween-themed pillowcases make the perfect accessory for any couch, sofa, or mattress. Made with thick linen fabric, these are durable, sturdy, and designed to last for seasons to come. (Tip: To prevent the zipper from breaking, fold the pillow in half before inserting.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black Lace Spiderweb Fireplace Mantle; $12

Aerwo/Amazon

This versatile spiderweb prop is made with 100-percent polyester, and its knit lace spiderweb pattern adds a spooky touch to any home. Display it on your doorway, across your fireplace mantel, or atop your table. (It also makes a great backdrop for Halloween photo ops.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Statement Halloween Signs; $16

Dazonge/Amazon

These festive, statement-making banners come pre-assembled, making them incredibly easy to install. They’re also weather-resistant and washable for both outdoor and indoor use. Use tape, push-pins, or weights to prevent the signs from blowing away.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Jack Skellington and Sally Plush Dolls; $23 (Each)

Disney

Celebrate your favorite holiday with a pair of adorable Jack Skellington and Sally plush dolls from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack stands at 28 inches tall, while Sally is a bit shorter at 21 inches. Set them up on your sofa or against the window sill for all to see.

Buy them: Disney Shop (Jack and Sally)

5. Halloween Zombie Groundbreaker; $22

Joyin/Amazon

This spooktacular zombie lawn decoration is sure to scare all of your friends, family, and neighbors alike. Made with a combination of latex, plastic, and fabric, this durable Halloween prop is sure to last for years to come.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Hanging Ghost Decoration; $14

Moon Boat/Amazon

Drape this handmade, 14-foot-long hanging ghost decoration over your porch, doorway, or window. You can also hang it outdoors over a tree or a (very tall) bush. And, since it comes pre-assembled, you won’t have to waste time constructing it yourself.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Two-Piece Hanging Ghost Set; $17

GeeFuun/Amazon

This pair of ghosts adds a whimsical touch to any home. While they’re not “scary,” per se, they certainly are adorable. Display them in your front yard, on your porch, on a lamppost, or a tree. To hang, simply tie the ribbons and bend the wires, arms, and tails.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Pumpkin String Lights; $19

Eurus Home/Amazon

Not only are these solar-powered, 33-foot-long LED string lights good for the environment, they’re also incredibly easy to install (no long, tangly power cable chords necessary). Since they’re waterproof, you can use them both indoors and outdoors. Choose from eight different light settings, including twinkling, flashing, fading, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Inflatable Ghost; $22

Joiedomi/Amazon

This adorable inflatable ghost (which dons a cute-as-can-be wizard hat!) features built-in LED lights and sandbags to help it stay sturdy. It also comes complete with a plug, extended cords, ground stakes, and fastened ropes. Simply plug it in and watch it magically inflate within just a few minutes.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Graveyard Tombstones; $17

meiguisha/Amazon

Turn your front lawn into a graveyard with this six-piece set. Each tombstone is made with foam and designed to add a touch of spookiness to your space. To install, insert one holder into the bottom of the tombstone, and one into the soil. You can use these indoors, as well.

Buy it: Amazon

11. 10-Piece Skeleton Set; $24

Fun Little Toys/Amazon

This skeleton set includes a skull, hands and arms, and legs and feet—plus five stakes to hold everything in place. Each “bone” and “joint” is flexible, allowing you to prop the skeleton into different frighteningly fun poses. Simply place the stakes into the bone socket and turn clockwise.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Outdoor Spider Web; $18

amenon/Amazon

This giant, ultra-stretchy spider web spans a whopping 23 feet. It also includes a 30-inch black spider, 20 pieces of fake spiders, one hook, and one nail. Its thick polyester rope—combined with the sturdy stakes—allows the spider web to stay in place all season long. Place the hook on a wall or tree, and expand the web using the stakes.

Buy it: Amazon

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Norwegians May Hold the Secret to Braving a Winter Lockdown

Some people can change their winter mindset.
Some people can change their winter mindset.
Imgorthand/iStock via Getty Images

A combination of COVID-19, the flu, cold weather, shorter days, and spending time indoors already has some Americans dreading the winter season. Health experts have also expressed concern over peoples' mental well-being, as opportunities to engage socially continue to be limited. In August, a Centers for Disease Control survey revealed that 41 percent of respondents were dealing with mental health issues due to the pandemic.

But the prospect of a long and isolating winter isn’t without precedent. In Tromsø, Norway, residents are virtually without sun from mid-November through mid-January. And they might hold the key to coping with the season.

Writing for The Guardian, David Robson recently profiled Kari Leibowitz, a psychologist who visited Tromsø to better understand why its citizens are, broadly speaking, pretty happy people despite the harsh weather and lack of sunlight. What Leibowitz discovered was that the people of Tromsø don’t dread the polar night—they look forward to it.

Leibowitz found that their appraisal of a “lockdown” wasn’t at all downcast. Instead of applying negative thoughts to it, they considered all the things that would bring them comfort. Using a “mindset scale,” respondents who stated they enjoyed certain aspects of winter, cozy time spent indoors, and seasonal changes were comfortable. Those who considered winter boring or limiting were more likely to be unhappy.

Anecdotally, Leibowitz also found that residents of Tromsø were genuinely excited about the opportunities the season brings, from skiing to resting under a blanket. Rather than feel restricted, they opted to appreciate what was possible.

"Most people don’t realize that their beliefs about winter are subjective,” Leibowitz said. “They feel like they’re just someone who hates the winter and there’s nothing they can do about it ... But once you put it in people’s heads that mindsets exist, and that you have control over your mindset ... I think that that’s tremendously powerful."

For some people, like those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a change in attitude isn't so easy. But for others, shifting their thinking away from a cold and dark season to one full of potential might be one way to find the warmth in winter.

[h/t The Guardian]